National AIDS Resource Center

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What is the difference between TB infection and TB disease?

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TB infection means that the TB germ can be found in your body, but it doesn’t make you feel sick. A healthy immune system can’t destroy the TB germ by itself if you get infected with TB, but it can keep the TB germs trapped in your lungs and unable to spread. But because the TB germ is strong and protects itself with a thick coating, it can remain in an inactive state in the body for many years.

TB disease occurs when the immune system can’t keep the TB germs trapped anymore. The TB germs can attack the lungs, or even go to the kidneys, brain, or spine.

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